Company developing immunostimulants aiming to improve immunotherapies,
including COVID-19 vaccines and immuno-oncology drugs
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Houston, TX (September 5, 2020) – 7 Hills Pharma, a clinical stage immunotherapy company focused on the development of drugs for treatment and prevention of cancer and infectious diseases, announced it has been selected by Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS to participate in its Blue Knight collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the goal to help battle the pandemic.
"We are pleased to be part of Johnson & Johnson innovation – JLABS’ and BARDA’s global effort in finding innovative potential solutions to address this deadly pandemic,” said Upendra Marathi, Ph.D., MBA, President and CEO of 7 Hills Pharma. “We look forward to their help in advancing our oral small molecule immunostimulant, 7HP349, aimed to improve the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly with older adults most at risk of severe illness and death.”
7 Hills Pharma’s immunostimulant, 7HP349, is a first-in-concept, direct activator of integrins which are cell adhesion molecules necessary for generating strong immune responses to immunotherapies, such as vaccinations. Cell adhesion is essential for immune cell to cell interactions that produce antibodies and activate T cells for defending against infectious diseases.
7HP349 is delivered separately, requiring no change in administration of vaccines, and acts systemically. Preclinical studies suggest 7HP349 is safe and has the potential not only to augment vaccines’ effectiveness, but also accelerate immune system response, allow for dose sparing and reduce or eliminate the need for boosters.
The company’s COVID-19 program targets elderly populations whose immune systems have weakened with age, resulting in defective cell adhesion. This age-related immune deficiency is the reason influenza vaccines fail to protect more than 50% of older adults.
7 Hills Pharma expects to begin Phase 1 safety trials of 7HP349 this fall, followed by Phase 2 trials in combination with COVID-19 vaccines.
“We expect our cell adhesion agents will greatly enhance the efficacy of any emerging vaccines against COVID-19,” said Dr. Marathi. “Although this approach is potentially applicable for all ages, we are targeting older subjects who are at greater risk because of their lower immune responses to vaccines.”
Blue Knight is a collaboration between the Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS and BARDA. The joint initiative is designed with the aim to identify and accelerate development of innovative therapies and diagnostics to address global health security threats.
7 Hills Pharma is one of seven start-ups in JLABS incubators in the U.S., Canada and Europe to be the first beneficiaries of the Blue Knight collaboration. It is anticipated that these initial seven companies combined will receive approximately $500,000 and mentorship from J&J Family of Companies and BARDA.
In addition to enhancing the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, 7 Hills Pharma is developing 7HP349 for use with influenza vaccines and other immunotherapies, such as immuno-oncology PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors to treat solid tumor cancers.
About 7 Hills Pharma
7 Hills Pharma is focused on the development of novel and cost-efficient immunomodulatory agents that leverage well-known integrin biology to drive and enhance essential steps in the immune cycle. The company’s lead programs are designed to improve the effectiveness of immuno-oncology therapies including checkpoint inhibitors, vaccines, and cord blood transplantation in the treatment of cancers and infectious diseases. For more information, visit www.7hillspharma.com.